Digital History and Undergraduates: Aligning Professor and Librarian Expectations
As exciting new digital history projects continue to emerge and multiply, students are increasingly likely to discover or be directed to these resources in the course of history research. Unfortunately, this also presents new opportunities for student confusion regarding how these digital history projects fit into the traditional classroom process of research and citation, especially given the strict guidelines that many professors set for the required minimum or maximum numbers of primary, secondary, and online sources cited in undergraduate research papers. As a front-line resource for student research instruction, librarians are faced with student questions about how to account for digital history sites in class assignments. In the interests of constructive collaboration and student success, it is vital that the advice these librarians give be in synch with the opinions of the history professors who will actually assess the student papers. This poster will present the findings of a nationwide survey which sought to collect and compare the perspectives of history instructors and librarians regarding the use of digital history projects in undergraduate research. The study explored the following questions: How aware are undergraduate instructors of these projects and the way they impact the research process? Among instructors and librarians, are these resources considered authoritative, are they considered valuable or confusing for undergraduate student researchers, and are they more commonly perceived as primary, secondary, or tertiary sources? Do librarians need to adapt the advice they offer to students in order to better reflect instructor opinions, or do librarians need to reach out to instructors to address opposing perspectives and increase understanding of digital history projects as a research tool? The author hopes that the findings of this study will inform digital humanities, history librarianship, and undergraduate history instruction in general by clarifying current perspectives on the use of digital history in undergraduate student research.
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